Choice is defined as an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities. At home, our choices are not just about what is best for ourselves, but for our families. As businesspeople, our choices not only affect our personal success but the success of our customers, teams, company and shareholders. Every day we make choices at our jobs that impact business but what we may not realize is that we’re empowered to be effective because our leadership has given us the freedom to make decisions. Not every company or role affords this responsibility, but research has shown that empowering employees to make choices is directly related to company success.
In her book, “The Art of Choosing,” Sheena Iyengar gives an example of a study to determine how giving someone the ability to make decisions positively affects performance. A group of children was divided into three groups and given a test to get a baseline on their knowledge of math. One group of students was allowed to choose their team’s name. The second and third groups were assigned names. The groups were then introduced to a game which was designed to enhance their math skills. When they were done playing the game, their math skills were tested again.
The students who were able to choose their team’s name improved their math scores by 18%, almost two full letter grades, while the students in the other two groups showed no improvement at all.
So, what can we learn from this? To quote George Eliot, “The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.” If you want your organization to be more successful, try giving your employees the opportunity to make decisions.
Employees who feel like they have a measure of control over their work and their environment may be more likely to personally succeed and positively impact the business. Successful companies create a framework that empowers their employees to make choices within those guidelines. Ask your employees, “What is it that you want?” and, “What choices are you prepared to make to support those ideas?”
But remember: With choice comes responsibility – be supportive of enabling your employees to choose wisely.